Yeshiva College professor Yair Shahak was crowned the winner of the 2014 U.S. National Bible Contest for Adults on Sunday, November 30, in Manhattan. Shahak, who is a graduate of Yeshiva College and the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies and a current student at the Belz School of Jewish Music, persevered against 12 talented challengers to claim the first-place spot and the opportunity to represent the United States at the International ChidonHaTanach (Bible Contest) for Adults in Jerusalem on December 23.
“This victory means a great deal to me because I have been involved in Bible study all my life. It was a very emotional win, as I felt as though I was coming full circle while battling it out against some very capable Bible scholars,” said Shahak, a native of Brooklyn. “I fell in love with the stories and language of the Bible at a young age, and there is still nothing that gives me more joy than sharing my love of the Bible with my students at Yeshiva University.”
Several other members of the “YU family” competed in the U.S. National Bible Contest for Adults, including Stern College for Women and Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration alumna Adina Brizel, and Stern College graduate and Yeshiva University High School for Girls faculty member Leah Segal. Zev Berman, the U.S. coordinator of the International ChidonHaTanach for Adults, is also a Yeshiva College graduate and a longtime member of the college’s board.
“I am very proud to be representing both the United States and Yeshiva University on the world stage. This experience is a tribute to the Bible courses that I took at YU which instilled me with a passion and love for Biblical Hebrew, and my phenomenal professors who brought the texts to life,” added Shahak.
Later this month, Shahak, together with the winners and runners-up from the other participating countries, will enjoy a series of special tours of biblical locations around Israel and will hear from a collection of impressive speakers, including scholars, politicians, and heads of state. Shahak is following in the footsteps of fellow Yeshiva College professor Ezra Frazer, a doctoral candidate in Bible at Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, who represented the U.S. in the same competition in 2012.
The International Bible Contest for Adults was developed to encourage the study of the Bible, strengthen ties with the Land of Israel, and deepen connections with Jewish heritage. As in the past, this year’s international finals will be hosted at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on the final day of Chanukah, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Education Shai Peron are scheduled to attend.